NUISANCE fires at a derelict garden centre are causing a “big drain” on the fire service’s ability to tackle more important incidents, firefighters have warned.

Crews have been called to Holland Gardening Centre in Darwen Road, Bromley Cross, seven times in the past month, the most recent of which was at 8.40pm yesterday evening.

All of the fires have been started by youths, with some involving loose rubbish and timber while others involved the building’s structure itself.

Andrew Kopicki, watch manager at Bolton North fire station, said the fires were reducing the capacity to deal with other incidents across the town.

He explained: “Once a fire engine has arrived at an incident, we would not be taken away until we have dealt with that.

“There is only one fire engine at Bolton North so a nuisance fire such as this wipes out the fire cover for all of Bolton North.

“If there was a crash around the corner or a house fire, we would not be remobilised and the nearest appliance would be a lot further away.”

Fire crews remained at the scene yesterday for about 45 minutes, while police also attended the incident.

Mr Kopicki has asked for people in the area to remain vigilant and for anyone with information on who the youths starting the fires were to contact the police.

He added: “Anti-social behaviour such as this effects everyone. There is only so much you can actually do in regards to securing the site, it’s down to the kids to stop starting the fires.”

Earlier this month, Bromley Cross councillor David Greenhalgh described the situation as being of “huge concern” and called for a clampdown on antisocial behaviour at the site.

He also noted that councillors were working with police to discuss measures to tackle the problems, including the use of dispersal orders — giving police the power to remove anti-social groups and escort young troublemakers home.